In order to support communities across Massachusetts in conducting community clean energy initiatives, MassCEC has created the Solarize and HeatSmart Tool Kit. Our goal is to provide communities that are interested in running a Solarize or HeatSmart-styled campaign with resources and valuable information necessary to create their own clean energy adoption programs, to help harness the existing energy and motivations around tranistioning to clean energy solutions. Resources will include materials to assist in community outreach, marketing, installer selection, campaign management, event planning, and campaign wrap-up and analysis.

MassCEC launched the Solarize and HeatSmart program model to increase the adoption of small scale solar electricity and clean heating and cooling technologies in participating communities. These grassroots educational campaigns were mainly driven by local volunteers to help simplify the process of installing clean energy systems by pre-vetting an installer and offering transparent pricing for homeowners. Although MassCEC was unable to offer funding for the Solarize and HeatSmart programs for fiscal year 2021, this tool kit will guide you step by step and help you utilize your existing assets to implement a campaign independently.

To check out past Solarize and HeatSmart campaigns visit Solarize Mass or HeatSmart Mass and click on the ‘Program Background’ section.

If you have any questions contact us at solarize@masscec.com or heatsmart@masscec.com

 

The first step to running your Solarize or HeatSmart-like campaign is selecting which clean energy technologies to promote within your community. It's important that you and your volunteer team understand the basics of your selected technologies, so you can help educate other residents in your community and answer their questions. You don’t need to become an expert on each technology because the installer you select to work with will be able answer the technical and advanced questions for you and your community participants throughout the campaign. You can begin learning more about these clean energy technologies by watching the following training videos and guides. 

Please note that the ‘Technology’ 2020 Training Webinars were presentations given to our 2020 Solarize and HeatSmart Community Coaches and Volunteers. The intent was to train them to a basic level of understanding for each technology so that they would be able to answer residents’ fundamental questions. Our presentations included information about specific tax credits and rebate programs applicable at that time, however this section has been removed from most videos because the incentive information is subject to change each year. For up to date incentives and financial information please visit our Clean Energy Lives Here Resources

Now that you have a better understanding of small-scale solar electric and clean heating and cooling solutions you can move on to exploring and planning your campaign.

In this stage you will explore past program overviews, best practices, and general logistics to help you understand the fundamental steps to implementing a clean energy adoption campaign that you will strategically plan for in the next section. It’s important to understand the time commitment that needs to be made, who  the campaign’s stakeholders are and their level of support or readiness to adopt clean energy technologies to ensure for a successful campaign.

Understand the program: The following resources will help you explore running your campaign in the traditional way and/or identify areas and strategies to alter to help tailor your campaign to your community. Please keep in mind that your team does not need to specifically follow any of this guidance, but these tools have been used for many years to support clean-energy campaigns. 

  • Solarize Mass Community Best Practices Timeline - Review how MassCEC’s Solarize Mass program was conducted to understand how you can model your campaign to progress in the same way. This document will be updated in the coming months with more up to date steps.
  • The Solarize Guidebook: A community guide to collective purchasing of residential PV systems - Learn about the best practices for team leadership, volunteer recruitment, releasing and reviewing installer RFPs, outreach, and customer enrollment from case studies on previous Solarize campaigns initiated from different state programs.  
  • Planning and Implementing a Solarize Initiative, A Guide for State Program Managers - Learn about elements common to successful Solarize programs and how state managers structure and organize a Solarize program from case studies on Solarize Mass and Solarize Connecticut.
  • HeatSmart Mass Pilot Summary - Review the results of the first HeatSmart Mass program round to understand how it was used to increase awareness and installation of clean energy technologies.
  • Interviews with past Solarize and HeatSmart Coaches – View these interviews to learn from the experiences of people that have run a Solarize or HeatSmart campaign before in order to gain ideas for planning your campaign.
    • Wayland participated in Solarize in 2012 and 2017 and ran their campaign as a partnership between with the towns of Lincoln and Sudbury. Listen to this quick interview (10 min) to learn more.
    • Somerville participated in Solarize in 2016 and ran their own installer RFP process independent of MassCEC. Listen to this quick interview (10 min) to learn more.
    • Natick participated in Solarize in 2016 and ran their own installer RFP process independent of MassCEC. Listen to this quick interview (10 min) to learn more.
    • Plainfield participated in Solarize in 2015 and ran their campaign as a partnership between the towns of Plainfield, Ashland, and Buckland. Listen to this quick interview (10 min) to learn more.
    • Arlington and Winchester participated in HeatSmart in 2019 and ran their campaign as a partnership between the towns. Listen to this quick interview (10 min) to learn more.
    • Concord and Carlisle participated in HeatSmart in 2018 and ran their campaign as a partnership between these two towns and Lincoln. Listen to this quick interview (10 min) to learn more.
      • You can also listen to the full interview (25 min) here to learn more specifics about HeatSmart Concord-Carlisle-Lincoln and the HeatSmart Alliance.
  • Valuable resources and programs to consider from other entities:
    • NYSERDA Solarize Guidebook (Source: NY-SUN) – Review best practices and campaign structure established by NY State’s Solarize program
    • Solar United Neighbors - This national organization is dedicated to representing the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. They are a community of people building new energy systems with rooftop solar at the cornerstone, to help people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights.
    • MassEnergize – This organization provides communities with the tools and resources to motivate and support their residents, businesses, and non-profits in a wide array of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for a changing climate. They leverage the collective expertise, experience and buying power of multiple towns, cities and local organizations by collaborating with them on tools, strategies, and resources.
    • HeatSmart Alliance – This is a collaborative group of Massachusetts communities that participated in the HeatSmart Mass program previously and aims to promote sustainable building energy usage and greenhouse gas reduction programs in your community by accelerating the adoption of energy-efficient heat pumps.

Conduct Outreach: The following resources will help you reach out to valuable stakeholders, such as community members and past participants, to better prepare and tailor your campaign to your community’s needs and interests.

  • Solarize Mass Campaign Outreach Techniques - Review a list of techniques used to conduct outreach and market through previous Solarize and HeatSmart programs. This will be important to use for both planning and implementation phases.
  • Past Solarize-HeatSmart Municipal Representative Contact Info - Reach out to people that have previously run a Solarize or HeatSmart campaign to receive feedback and compare experiences.

  • Template Community Interest Survey - Send out to your neighbors and post on town websites or Facebook groups to see if residents are interested in switching to clean energy technologies, and as a method for identifying which technologies to promote. This list of interested contacts can become a valuable resource in order to share initial leads with your selected installers.

  • Template Collaborator Commitment Letter - This template can be used to provide confirmation of another entity’s commitment to support and help promote your campaign. This entity may be a local environmental nonprofit, community organization, or the municipality. Campaigns that collaborate with another entity tend to have more success due to diversity of perspective and a wider range of resources for community outreach and marketing. 

  • High-Cost Heating Fuels Map – Review this map to identify what percentage of households in your community heat with high cost heating fuels like oil, electric resistance, and propane. These households will see the highest cost savings for switching to clean heating and cooling technologies so are great candidates for a HeatSmart campaign.During your outreach, you can use the Clean Energy Technology 101 Flyers (listed under Step 1) to help educate stakeholders on the different clean energy technologies. For example, when conducting the community interest survey, you can attach the flyers to help explain some of the benefits of installing solar electric or clean heating and cooling systems.

  • During your outreach, you can use the Clean Energy Technology 101 Flyers (listed under Step 1) to help educate stakeholders on the different clean energy technologies. For example, when conducting the community interest survey, you can attach the flyers to help explain some of the benefits of installing solar electric or clean heating and cooling systems.

In this stage of planning, you want to detail your overall campaign and marketing strategy. This requires you to utilize your insights from ‘Step 2 – Campaign Exploration’ to identify your team members, partners, campaign goals, marketing tactics, events, and timeline.

Campaign Planning
The following resources will help you develop a detailed campaign structure to keep your entire team, municipal partner, volunteers, and selected installers organized and on the same page. 

  • Community RFP - Utilize the Request for Proposals from MassCEC’s Solarize Mass and HeatSmart Mass program to better understand the typical program process. You will learn about specific program roles and responsibilities for each, what best qualifies and prepares a community to run a campaign, and timelines to help you structure your campaign. The community application has been noted by past participants as an essential planning and preparation tool.
    • Proposal Checklist and Application – This application will help you concretely establish your goals and may prove useful if you seek to gain approval from your municipality or to engage other partners.
      • You can check out the Community Marketing Proposals (under the Program Background tab on the Solarize and HeatSmart webpages) for examples of strategies submitted by previously selected Solarize and HeatSmart communities, and use these as a template to create your own plan. See the below ‘Marketing Planning’ section for further tools.
    • HeatSmart or Solarize Coach Commitment Form – This form will summarize the traditional responsibilities of the HeatSmart or Solarize Coach and secure a commitment from them. You can read the full descriptions of program roles and responsibilities in the Community RFP above.
    • Volunteer Commitment Form – This form secures a commitment from all volunteers.
  • Community Outreach Plan Template - Plan and identify potential opportunities to conduct outreach and interact with residents to market the campaign. This tool can be updated each week throughout the campaign to help track campaign progress.
  • MAPC Example Stakeholder List - This list provides recommendations of specific stakeholders for you to identify within your community to target for partnership opportunities, campaign support, residents to market the program to and strategies to use to engage them. Make sure to reference this tool throughout your campaign, especially during the following marketing and event planning phases.

Marketing Planning
The following resources will help you create your marketing strategy for future implementation by providing guidance on launching a website and utilizing social media to engage with residents.

  • Develop a plan to use the Community Marketing Proposal you created in the previous section to expand your marketing strategy. You can find examples of strategies submitted by previously selected Solarize and HeatSmart communities under the Program Background tab on the Solarize and HeatSmart webpages and use these as a template to create your own plan. The following tools will help inform your strategies
  • Social Media & Marketing Best Practices Webinar (1 hour and 30 min) and slides This training video provides an overview of how to utilize social media to help further develop and implement your strategies. Social Media and online communications might be an extremely important feature of your campaign if you are planning to launch during the pandemic. 
  • Digital Marketing Best Practices Summary – This guide provides quick tips on utilizing Facebook, email, and Nextdoor for digital marketing as well as best practices for using links, images, and videos to create organic content and paid ads on social media. Once reviewed, set up your first social media account for your campaign.
    • Facebook Best Practices – This document will teach you how to set up your own Facebook page for the campaign and provide step by step instructions to help you post organic content and pay for promoted ads.
  • Content Calendar Template – Use this content calendar to plan out the posts you want to publish to social media, as well as help track articles or blogs that may be posted to other news sources.
  • Create a website for your Solarize or HeatSmart campaign. This site should include information about your selected technologies, program contact information, any events you hold, and eventually your selected installers and their contacts.
  • Create an FAQ page for your website and to be utilized by volunteers to help quickly answer residents’ questions about the program and selected technologies. Utilize this Community FAQ Template as a draft for your team to add your own responses to.

Event Planning
The following resources include examples of types of events that have been held by past HeatSmart and Solarize campaigns to help you plan your own events to further your marketing strategy.

  • Visit the MassCEC Youtube page to watch past HeatSmart communities’ campaign events so you can consider how you will market and plan for them.
    • Plan a Kick-Off event where the community is introduced to the campaign and the selected clean energy technologies. View HeatSmart Newton's Kick-Off event for reference.
    • Plan a Meet the Installer Event to announce and introduce your selected installers for the campaign to community residents. View HeatSmart Newton's Meet the Installer Events for reference 
  • Launch Event Planning and Outcomes Checklist – This template can be used for planning a larger in-person launch or kick-off event to announce the campaign, but may be modified for planning virtual events and other smaller outreach events.
    • Continue to update and utilize the Community Outreach Plan Template as you plan additional events during your campaign.

This phase explains the installer selection process from the MassCEC-led Solarize and HeatSmart programs and while it is a best practice recommendation, your team may not elect to have a selected installer for your campaign or go through a formal RFP process. For example, your community may already have a local installer that is known and trusted by your residents, in which case you may choose to skip this formal selection process. If you do choose to follow this suggested step, your team will develop a Request For Proposals (RFP) to solicit applications for installers for each of your selected technologies, review applications, interview applicants, and make a final selection.

Creating & Releasing an Installer RFP

The following resources will help you create your own Installer RFP by deciding on specific criteria you want an installer to include and complete as a partner during your campaign. This is an important step in order to properly vet an installer that meets the needs of your community.

  • Installer Selection Process Explanation – Establish a plan for your team’s installer selection process. This document provides an overview of the process as it took place through the MassCEC-led Solarize program and may be used as a guide to plan your own. The listed roles can be removed or changed to fit your process.
  • HeatSmart and Solarize Installer RFP Example – Review the Installer RFP MassCEC released for the 2020 Programs in order to create your own and solicit applications for installers.
  • Previous Community-Specific Goals and Selection Criteria – Set goals and selection criteria specific to the needs of your community to be included in your communities’ Installer RFP. This is an opportunity for a community to express if they have any specific or unique goals, and/or selection criteria they want the installer to be aware of.
  • Establish a Competitive Cost Threshold – If your campaign is offering competitive pricing compared to the market rate, you may want to review historical data around clean energy costs in order to determine the price to list in your Installer RFP. You can use different data sets to evaluate the market for certain clean energy technologies specific to your region. The following data sets were used by MassCEC to establish a competitive cost threshold, but please note that some of the data from MassCEC rebate programs may be outdated due to programs closing, thus average pricing in the area may have changed. This is still a great place to start.

Reviewing Installer Applications

The following resources will help you review installer applications, conduct interviews, and officially sign with your vetted installer.

  • Installer Application Scoresheet – Use this template to score all the applied installers on qualities such as their experience, cost value, community outreach plan, ability to collaborate with your team and/or other installers, and any other criteria your team has selected to include in the Installer RFP. This will help you narrow down which installers to conduct interviews with.
  • General Interview Questions for Installer Selection – Use this list to prepare your own questions for every installer interview on topics around pricing and equipment, customer service, community outreach, specific needs of your community, concerns about the technology, etc.
  • Installer Contract – Sign a contract with your selected installer to agree on specific terms for the duration of your partnership and Solarize or HeatSmart styled campaign.
    • By offering a copy of this sample contract:
      • MassCEC is not specifically suggesting you use this contract or its terms
      • MassCEC is not offering legal advice of any kind
    • The most valuable sections from our contract are going to be the program specific terms and conditions (see sections 1,2,3). Use this as a tool to personalize for your campaign and set expectations between parties.
    • Sections offering specific legal terms and conditions, such as sections 4 & 5, are both standard legal terms and conditions, or specific terms and conditions MassCEC utilizes and may not be applicable to the program or municipality's needs. These sections have been kept in the Installer Contract template only to show an example of terms and conditions.
      • Specifically, for section 5, the community/municipality should utilize their own required terms and conditions in their own version of a terms and conditions document.

In this phase, you will implement your campaign, marketing, and event strategies to launch your overall initiative. It is important that while your campaign progresses, all your team’s activities are tracked and evaluated for impact. As a reminder, continue to use resources from the Campaign Exploration and Campaign Planning sections to implement your events, social media posts, and other outreach activities in order to keep the momentum of the campaign going. Specifically, remember to use the Community Campaign Best Practices Timeline for guidance and lessons learned on running a campaign to best implement your community’s campaign.

Marketing Materials

The following materials are examples from past Solarize and HeatSmart campaigns that can used to inspire your own marketing and outreach materials to give to residents. Some materials include editable file versions, so you will easily be able to customize them.

Tools for Tracking Campaign Progress

The following materials will help you to manage your campaign and track specific data to inform how successful your campaign is at different time periods.

  • Utilize the Leads List initiated in the campaign planning phase as a basis to transfer the residents interested in specific installers to the Metrics Tracking Template listed below, or one created in collaboration with your installer. Once installers are selected, it is imperative that your team establishes and agrees on a way to track and share leads in case residents are interested in more than one technology, but only contacts one installer.
    • It is also important for the community team to stay involved with managing the leads and assisting installers with contacting leads if needed. Often a trusted conversation with a campaign volunteer - who is also a resident of the community - can help a potential customer make the decision to move forward with contracting.
  • Metrics Tracking Template - Establish a form for tracking the number of leads, site visits, contracts, etc. that occur for each installer each week of the campaign. This form is more complex and provides an example for tracking a campaign run in 2 communities with 4 installers – thus you may elect to use this simplified summary version: Metrics Tracking Summary Template.
    • Consider making and updating weekly graphs so you can chart your progress and evaluate how your outreach events and marketing activities from each week are impacting your campaign.

Your team may also consider requesting that installers share additional information for signed contracts. It is imperative that you set expectations and agree on how this data sharing process will be implemented before the campaign begins.

After the contract or sign-up period has closed, a common best practice is to have the full team evaluate the success of the campaign by analyzing final metrics to share with your community, holding debrief meetings, and considering future clean energy or climate action initiatives to take advantage of your community’s new knowledge and momentum.

Program Close and Analysis

The following materials will help you gather insights on the experiences of participating residents, the selected installers, volunteer team, and any other stakeholders.

  • Resident Survey Template – Send a survey to your entire contact/leads list – that means all residents that have shown interest in the program whether they went through with a contract or not. This way you are able to learn about why or why not residents decided to sign a contract with your installer, the level of knowledge they gained about certain clean energy technologies, and how you could improve the program in the future. This MassCEC example survey can be used as a template to edit and add questions for your community’s survey. We typically use Survey Monkey to build out and distribute the survey, but Google Forms or Qualtrics are also useful surveying tools.
  • Community Volunteer Team Survey Template – Send a survey to your community volunteers to learn about the experiences and challenges while working on the campaign to learn how you can better support volunteers in the future. This template can be used to build a survey or facilitate an open conversation between community volunteers.
  • Installer Debrief Template – Use this list of debrief topics to facilitate a conversation with your selected installers to learn about their experiences with your community’s campaign and consider opportunities to work with installers in the future.

If you have an interest in running a Solarize or HeatSmart-styled campaign in the upcoming year, and would like to speak with MassCEC for guidance please reach out to solarize@masscec.com or heatsmart@masscec.com, and we can set up a time to speak with you!